Jesse Lingard revealed his delight after his debut double kept West Ham’s European challenge on track.
The forward grabbed a brace in Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Aston Villa – his first Premier League start for over a year after joining on loan from Manchester United.
Lingard impressed in front of watching England boss Gareth Southgate as he looks to revive his international career having not played for his country since 2019.
“I was smiling before the game, during the game, I just love football and enjoy playing,” he told the club’s official website.
“It’s been a long time. I enjoyed myself, and came out with two goals and three points, which was the most important thing.
“We worked hard as a collective to get the result and we’re just focused on the next game, which is Fulham on Saturday.
“The team has been great with me and I’ve settled in quickly. I know some familiar faces, which has helped, and as long as we work hard on the training ground and on matchday (we’ll get more results like this).
“In training we’ve had that connection as well and I feel like I’ve bedded in quickly, so come the matchday it’s easy to play with Michail (Antonio). As a team and as a collective we worked hard and that showed.”
Victory closed the gap on Liverpool in fourth after their surprise loss to Brighton and the fifth-placed Hammers are just two points behind the Champions League spots.
Villa, who sit ninth in the Premier League, slipped further away from the European pack after a fourth defeat in six games and John McGinn admitted they failed to perform.
The midfielder told the club’s official website: “I’m disappointed and frustrated. The disappointment is we know we’re a good team and we didn’t show that enough.
“It took until we went 2-0 down to cause them problems. We did that, got a goal back and we deserved it at that point. We could have kicked on and got the equaliser but we conceded a cheap goal.
“The manner of the goals we lost was disappointing. If we want to do what we can achieve this season then we need to be a lot more street-wise and tighter as a team.”